(credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

(credit: Philippe Huguen/AFP/Getty Images)

(CBS News) – The American Medical Association has officially recognized obesity as a disease, a decision that could change the way physicians and insurance companies deal with the condition.

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The move, announced on Tuesday, will open up a range of medical interventions for the prevention and treatment of obesity and changes the status of obesity from “a major public health problem” to a disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 36 percent of American adults are obese.

The Texas comptroller recently set up a website meant to help battle childhood obesity and identify areas of the state where youngsters are most at risk.

>> Adult BMI Calculator

Dr. Lou Aronne, an obesity expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital, said medical researchers have long recognized obesity as a disease but said the AMA’s recognition and re-classification will “have a tremendous impact on legislation in Washington [and] with insurance companies.”

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